The local “educational” TV station (WNYE) carries news broadcasts from a number of countries, including Italy, Russia, Poland, and France. The French news, their regular 8 p.m. news broadcast on the France2 channel, is shown with English subtitles, and I like to watch it. It gives a different slant on the international news than we get here, it gives European news that's covered sparsely or not at all here, and it gives news about politics, society, and events in France that are interesting to see. And it helps me learn more French.
To that last point, my French is nowhere near up to the task of understanding the news without the subtitles, so I rely completely on those translations for the news, while listening to the spoken French and learning a little here and there. Once in a while, the translations have an error, or they leave off a significant point — and I'm pleased with myself when I can understand enough to notice this. But the subtitlers do an excellent job, and they're valuable to me.
I was upset, then, when in mid-December I started seeing this subtitle at the end of the broadcasts:
English subtitling of this program will end on Dec 31.There's an email address shown on the screen (“news(at)france2.fr”), and so on the 20th of December I wrote them email, basically saying what I said above, and adding that I understand that they probably need to cut expenses, but without the subtitles I'd probably stop watching, and that would be a pity.
On the 21st of December, while anchor David Pujadas was telling viewers about the day's football matches, the subtitles did not translate him, but instead said this:
We apologize for sacrificing tonight's sports news, but we wish to inform our viewers that the subtitling of this regular newscast will end on December 31st. The entire team would like to thank you for your letters of support.Since then, I've seen the following progression of end-of-broadcast subtitles:
22 Dec: The subtitling of this newscast has been given a reprieve. We were informed that it will continue for a few more months.
23 Dec: Captions: McGovern, LaCour, Conrade & Quidet. We thank you for writing.
26 Dec: The subtitlers appreciate your support.
28 Dec: The subtitlers thank you again for your letters...
29 Dec: Regarding the future subtitling of this newscast, we'll try to keep viewers who've written us abreast of developments.
Of course, my letter, alone, did nothing. But as one voice among many, it participated in demonstrating a demand for the service, and played a part in getting it reinstated, at least for a while. That's the same reason I write to my legislators, participate in protest marches, and vote — and one reason I write here.
It's one voice in the wilderness, but in the aggregate those voices can change things. It pays to weigh in.